Assemblyman Ryan Peters and former Burlington Sheriff Jean Stanfield have won the Republican nod to run for Assembly in the eighth legislative district, beating out Assemblyman Joe Howarth and Jason Huf.
The contest wasn’t a close one. Peters and Stanfield won every town in the district.
Peters received 5,040 and Stanfield, the top vote-getter, got 5,094.
They almost doubled the 2,606 votes Howarth Received.
Huf had 1,915 ballots cast in his name.
County backed candidates Gina LaPlaca, a former Assembly staffer, and Mark Natale, an Evesham district leader, took the race’s top two spots on the Democratic side.
The eighth district’s Republican primary was defined by someone who wasn’t even on the ballot.
Howarth lost party support after State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) defected from the Republican party earlier this year.
In the two days that followed, Howarth maintained a radio silence that extended to the district’s Republicans as well as to the press.
Peters announced that he had no intention of switching his alignment hours after Addiego said she would become a Democrat.
Though Howarth denies attempting to do so, Burlington County Republicans believe the assemblyman tried to switch parties.
Multiple sources on both sides of the aisle have told the New Jersey Globe that Howarth had worked out a deal to switch his party alignment with legislative leaders on the Democratic side only to have those efforts thwarted by local Democrats who said they would not back him in a primary.
“Congratulations to Chairman Earlen and the Burlington, Atlantic and Camden GOP organizations on tonight’s victories in LD-8. Joe Howarth’s failed attempt to defraud South Jersey voters into thinking he was anything other than a Republican turncoat wasn’t enough to overcome the good work and reputations of Ryan Peters and Jean Stanfield,” Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt said.
“The NJGOP looks forward to working together to bring home general election victories for Assemblyman Peters and Sheriff Stanfield. They are two supremely qualified public servants, and the people of New Jersey can count on them to be strong advocates for affordability and common sense in Trenton.”
Stanfield told the New Jersey Globe she would retire from her long-held role as Burlington County Sheriff in February.
In March, Burlington County Republicans scored a recruitment coup when Stanfield announced she would run on a ticket with Peters.
Her role as a factor in the race could help Republicans hold onto the district’s Assembly seat.
Democrats almost flipped the eighth in 2017, when Howarth beat Mary Ann Merlino by 645 votes and Peters won a first term over Burlington County Freeholder Joanne Schwartz by just 350 votes. Howarth ran 170 votes ahead of Peters that year.
Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 2,532 votes in the eighth district in 2016, and the huge margin Rep. Andy Kim racked up in the district allowed him to unseat former Rep. Tom MacArthur.
The district is more Democratic now than it was in either one of those years.
On the day of 2017’s general election, the district had 48,771 registered Democrats and 42,474 registered Republicans.
By June 2019, Democrats had 50,656 registered voters there to Republicans’ 43,852.
Democrat’s registration lead didn’t climb all that much over that year-and-a-half-long span, but there are now 6,804 more registered Democrats than there are Republicans there, though with 62,875 voters registered without a party affiliation, independents still make up the largest chunk of the district’s voters.
In addition to their registration lead, the Democrats will also likely gain a boost from their opponents’ primary feuding.
Peters, Stanfield and Howarth vastly outspent — and outraised — their Democratic counterparts at this point in the race.
Though fundraising and spending figures through primary day are not yet available, 11-day pre-primary reports filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission show the winning Republican candidates didn’t get their spot on November’s ballot for free.
Peters, the race’s top fundraiser, $135,108 in total for the race but reported having $57,167 in his war chest 11 days out from election day.
Howarth raised $86,560 during the cycle and had $11,162.53 in cash reserves in the runup to primary day.
Stanfield, who entered the race later than either of her Republican cohorts, reported raising $50,604 and had $29,825 banked 11-days before polls opened.
LaPlaca and Natale jointly reported raising $20,503.52 having $15,541.51 on hand in their most recent pre-primary report.
It’s worth noting, though, that without a competitive primary the Democrats had little reason to raise significant funds ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
There’s little question that Democrats preferred to face Howarth in the general.
His running as a Trump Republican in the primary made him vulnerable to attacks in the general.
Rep. Andy Kim, who unseated Rep. Tom MacArthur in 2018, was able to do so because of anti-Trump sentiment that spurred Democratic victories in House races across the country.
Democrats preference was so clear that unions with ties to South Jersey Democratic gave Howarth’s campaign thousands of dollars.
The assemblyman got $8,200 from the Iron Worker’s Local #399, Senate President Steve Sweeney’s union, and $8,200 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 351, which was run by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) before his election to Congress.